February 24, 2011

Isles Battle Back, Fall to Flyers in OT; Saturday "Whiteout"

The Islanders played the Flyers well enough to win. Unfortunately, the Flyers skill level shined through just enough to give them the 4-3 OT win over the Isles.

This was a really fun game to watch because of the intensity that both teams brought. The Flyers did not take the Islanders lightly. The Isles were up to the task of trying to take down the big, bad Flyers.

Although the game wasn't all that high scoring, it had the feel of a pond hockey game. There was a lot of north-south play, a lot of pressure put on the goalies thanks to turnovers from sloppy plays on both ends, and a ton of shots.

The Islanders were ultimately done in by a long shift with a lot of scrambling in their zone as all four guys on the ice collapsed right around Al Montoya. That left Andrej Meszaros wide open to get a pass and take a quick wrister from just above the hash marks.

Both Montoya and Sergei Bobrovsky made some really solid saves when they had too. There were some tough ones, like the Flyers third goal from Jeff Carter that deflected twice before skipping past Montoya. He would redeem himself in overtime though, when he made a nice split save when Kimmo Timonen was allowed to walk in from the blue line.

Matt Martin scored two goals, including the one to tie it with 27 seconds left. His first goal was off of a nice feed from Micheal Haley. Martin positioned himself perfectly in the slot to receive the one-timer. Martin has been making the slot area his home the last two or three weeks, and that is an excellent sign. You can see that he is starting to think an offensive game slightly better even though the results have not completely come to fruition just yet.

Frans Nielsen was perhaps the Isles best forward. He scored the first goal on a really nice wrister after beating his man one-on-one. Nielsen did a lot of the other stuff that you have come to expect out of him too. He seemed to be the straw that stirred the drink on his line, which consisted of Kyle Okposo and Michael Grabner. Both of them had some nice chances, thanks to some nice plays and positioning by Nielsen.

Although they gave up a lot of shots, the Isles defensive unit was not as bad as I feared they would be. They blocked a ton of shots, and just tried to keep things simple. They didn't go out of position to do anything, and didn't try and manhandle any of the Flyers forwards in a one-on-one play. This Flyers team is so fast, experienced and skilled that you really can't afford to make any glaring mistakes against them.

Mark Katic made his NHL debut, and didn't really get involved too much. But he looked pretty good a couple of times. He is a VERY offensive minded defenseman, but each time he pinched in deep he got back rather quickly. Being an excellent skater like that gives you the chance to be able to pinch more often as long as you are mindful of when you have to cut back the other way. I don't suspect he'll be here for very long with Milan Jurcina's injury not appearing too serious, but it's always good to get a young, still raw defenseman a taste of what could be in store for him in the future.

On a negative note, in order to make room for Katic both Jesse Joensuu and Jeremy Colliton were sent down to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. This meant that Rob Schremp found his way back into the lineup after three games as a healthy scratch. I thought that Schremp had an opportunity now to try and prove that he should not have been scratched and that he had his head in order, but it wasn't meant to be.

What has gone on here with this player is really a shame when I think about how he was playing not even a month ago. He was even doing some of the little things right when not scoring, like back-checking or playing solid enough defensively. Now, he just plays like he's disinterested, and when he touches the puck it's like it has entered a black hole. He isn't even using his skills to keep the puck away from opponents. He seems to be trying to deke them out of their skates every time which usually ends up with Schremp easily being knocked off the puck. The regression here is such a shame.

The Islanders take on the Washington Capitals on Saturday night in what will be their final game before the trade deadline on Monday afternoon, with trade talks heating up (or have they already boiled over?) around the league. LOTS of deals have gone down already, but there are still plenty of guys out there who will undoubtedly be looking for new homes over the next few days.

Is Radek Martinek one of them? I know a couple of days ago I promised a little post on his value, and I still have that in the plans. I hope to get that out there in the next day or so (as long as he's still here, but I might put it up anyway even if he leaves before Monday). But, it's not a foregone conclusion that he will be dealt away.

For those of you attending Saturday's game, the fans have organized a "Whiteout the Red" campaign, where fans are encouraged to wear white. The concept is cool, and would have been much cooler if the Isles walked away with three out of four points on this road trip, but it's a nice way to get behind the team and tell them you don't care about a draft pick and want to see them win out. Judging how well the Caps have played in NVMC in recent years, anything folks need to do to get behind the Isles is greatly encouraged. A whiteout seems like a nice way to generate some excitement among the fans and players. Kudos to the Isles fans who have put time into getting the word out. Hopefully, it hit enough people.



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